There are few names more respected in the world of high-performance yachting than Killian Bushe. Beginning his apprenticeship under his father George over 40 years ago, Bushe struck out on his own in 1978. Since then, the list of boats built, project-managed, or otherwise benefitting from Bushe’s work could double as a history of successful offshore yachting. Best-known over the past decade and a half for his hand in building 4 of the past 5 Volvo Ocean Race winners, Bushe was excited by the chance to join the M32 family and take on a new challenge in building the M32 Catamaran, and we spoke to him from Aston-Harald headquarters in Sweden. You can find a full list of his boatbuilding and racing accolades here.
M32World: You’ve been working with Aston Harald, building the M32 for 2 years now. Can you explain why you needed to move from the previous facility to the current one?
Killian: Aston-Harold Composite has 2 buildings. The first building is on the island of Hönö and we call it AHC1. It’s just large enough to accommodate the lamination of the major components: Hulls, decks, beams, struts and some smaller components. This is also where we house the autoclave and automated cutting table. This building worked fine when we were only producing a couple of boats a month, and when we altered the target to 8 boats, we needed another large building. We rented a space in Gothenburg for the past year while the new facility (AHC2) was being built on Hönö, and we’re not moving the assembly operation over so that every part of the construction process will take place on the island.
M32World: How is production different in the new factory compared to the old one?
Killian: We worked very hard on the design of the new building with our top priority being ease and efficiency of production. It’s an open plan facility which allows the various stages of the build to flow from one station to another, resulting in a harmonious assembly line from bare hull at one end to the completed boat ready for delivery at the other end.
M32World: You’ve run some of the most advanced yacht building programs in the world, and the new M32 facility is now at the very cutting edge of that business. What features are so special about the new facility? What are you most proud of?
Killian: The main features that make this building special are the amount of open space and the open plan, and the state-of-the-art dust control systems. These features allow a builder to easily and efficiently put together just about any boat or composite part. We’re especially happy about the ultra-modern sanding boxes (which double as spray booths) and their dust-extraction systems. The building’s design also makes for a worker-friendly environment. A happy work force equals good products, and like all companies, Aston Harald needs a work force that wants to come to work!
The new building also has a clever office layout to allow the sales and marketing team to work at their best, too. It has a raised mezzanine floor with a glass wall from which customers can view the production line when they visit, and it has a view of these ‘Viking islands’ from the lunch room that you could only dream about.
M32World: No matter how well-constructed, one-design boats have historically always been slightly different from one another. How does your new production process reduce those differences? What kind of tolerances are you working with, compared to other one-designs?
Killian: I have never worked on one-designs previously, so it’s hard for me to compare, but our program is designed to keep them as identical as humanly possible. That means every major component that will effect performance is built in a mould. Hulls, beams, daggerboards, rudder blades, mast, boom, sprit, rack parts, tillers, struts, etc. etc. – they come from identical moulds. The carbon-fiber laminates that make up the pieces are all cut by a machine from CAD files, so every part coming out of the moulds are within the tolerances of the pre-preg materials that created them. Once the parts are ready, we assemble the boats in jig so the measurements are constant. A small amount of variation creeps in because we glue the parts together by hand, but so far our weight differences are a fraction of 1% from boat to boat.
M32World: At Just 500 kilos and change, the M32 is extremely light for her size, though the boats also seem to take a lot of racing abuse with no lasting effects. How has Aston-Harald achieved this apparent paradox with the design and construction of the boat?
Killian: There are two very simple reasons for the M32s combo of lightness and strength. First is the sheer brilliance of the designs ‘fathers’ – Goran Marstrom and Kåre Ljung. Their concept and construction design produced a tough, light and very fast racing machine.
The second reason for the boat’s toughness is the autoclave, which is a high-pressure oven big enough to build all the major parts of the boat. The parts are laid up and then cooked, with sandwich laminates (parts of the hull and the deck) cooked under 3 Bar of pressure in one shot. The higher-stressed parts – beams, rigs, boards, rudders, etc. – are cooked at 5 Bar. When you’re trying to produce light, strong parts with composite materials, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Space Shuttle wing or an M32 – pressure is your friend.
M32World: As someone who has watched numerous racing classes come and go, what do you think the actual M32 boat offers that no other racing yacht ever has?
Killian: We can’t compare a M32 to “any other racing yacht”. Maybe what really sets it apart is how many good attributes it has, and how important those are to modern racers.
- The M32 comes on a custom road trailer that can be towed with a family car.
- Rigging/assembling the boat from trailer to water takes around 3 hours for 3 people.
- The M32 has just 2 sails to deal with but doesn’t suffer from a lack of performance in light or heavy air.
- It offers fast and exciting racing in confined waters, with the high-volume bows and ultra-light weight making it quite forgiving and the loads manageable.
- The boat is easily reefed down so that ordinary crews can race it in 30 knots. Under single or double reef the boat is very well balanced. I would however not recommend the gennaker in that much breeze unless you’re looking for a swimming lesson.
- With 2 competent crew and a reef you can safely take 3 novices, wives, or kids for the sail of their lives in 20+ knots.
- The boat is easily righted in a capsize, and frequently can continue racing almost immediately after righting.
Are you an experienced composites worker looking to work alongside some of the world’s most respected boatbuilders? do you know one who might be looking for an exciting new opportunity with? Check out Aston Harald Composites